Europe

The ruins of the Valle dei Templi, Enna and Calascibetta

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New account of trip to Sicily we did in April 2011. We follow our 10-day drive through Sicily to stop at the impressive ruins of Templi Valley.

The ancient Akragas It was a very prosperous Greek colony that occasionally hunted with Carthage. In the end, the Carthaginians took over the city in 406 BC. At that point, Akragas had more than 200,000 inhabitants and was considered the most beautiful city known. After the Carthaginians came the Romans who renamed it Agrigentum and over time civilizations were happening until the city was abandoned and on top of the mountain the medieval city of Agrigento.

The ruins that can currently be visited are those of the so-called “Valley of the temples”, Which has two parts divided by the national highway. The eastern part includes the three best preserved temples and the western one has almost nothing standing. We begin our tour of the eastern part, where there is a parking lot near the entrance where we leave the car for € 3 all day. The good thing about the ruins of Agrigento is that being one of the most touristic in Sicily they have a fairly well assembled structure. With the ticket (€ 11), you can rent an audio guide (€ 5) that was very useful for us during the visit. Too bad they only have them in English and Italian. One aspect that bothered me is that the entrance was more expensive because there was an exhibition of a Russian sculptor, who should be someone's cousin, and being his statues scattered throughout the ruins, because to pay more has been said.

We begin the tour of the temple of hera (Juno for the Romans). Actually, it is not known exactly what deity this temple was dedicated to, but since it is oriented to the east, it is believed that it could be dedicated to the creator of life. In ancient times, rites and sacrifices were performed outside the temple. In Hera's case, white cows were sacrificed. After the sacrifice, the meat of the animal was distributed among the goddess, the priests and the worshipers. The interior of the temple housed the statue of the goddess and only the priests and their acolytes could access it.

A few meters down is the Temple of Concord, one of the best preserved in the Hellenistic world. It is of Doric style and the cause of its good conservation is that until 200 years ago it had been a Christian basilica. In fact, there are still some arches in the interior walls that gave access to the side aisles. When Pompeii was discovered, the whole world was given the classic vein and in many ruins all subsequent elements were removed to leave them more or less in their original state. The problem in the case of the Temple of Concord is that by removing the wooden roof, this caused an accelerated deterioration of its interior.

The last temple that stands out from the eastern part is the temple of Heracles (Hercules for our Roman friends). Cicero said that the statue of Heracles that housed the temple was the most beautiful he had ever seen. Unfortunately, it has not come to this day. The temple was at the entrance of the city to impress visitors and contained archives and pieces of great value that had been offered by the nobles of the city to demonstrate the wealth of the city to foreigners. When the Carthaginians arrived, the temple was sacked and then the Romans rebuilt it until an earthquake destroyed it.

At this point, to continue the visit you have to cross the national road and return to the entrance through the control. The western part is much worse preserved, and it is a shame because there stood one of the most impressive temples, that of Olympic Zeus. It is thought that this temple was 10 stories high and was almost the length of a football stadium. It is believed that it was this size because of the sculpture of an attacker found in the excavation that measured 8 meters and that it had been used as a buttress in the structure. The temple of Olympian Zeus It was never finished building due to the looting and conquest of the Carthaginians and the little that remained of it was totally destroyed by an earthquake. A shame.

It was half past twelve and the sun was fair. The visit to the valley in summer has to be hell, because there is hardly a shadow in the whole enclosure. While we were leaving, buses arrived with hordes of visitors, so we advise you to visit them first thing in the morning, when they open at 8.30am.

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